In middle school my social studies class was given the assignment to pick a historical figure, research them, and then give a presentation with what they had learned. I chose Catherine the Great and found her a fascinating subject. I soaked up everything I could find on her, reading several accounts of her life, a novel about her and watched a film or two as well – all in a very short time. I was so engaged in my subject and research that when the day came to give my presentation, I went up and stood before the class and became Catherine. I began by saying, “My name is Sophie Auguste Frederike, but you might know me better as Catherine, Catherine the Great.” Then in some way I became so engrossed in telling “my” story it was as if the classroom disappeared and self awareness with it. When I finished it was to realize that most of the class had tears in their eyes. My presentation was well received by my classmates. When I got my grade, however, it was a D. Despite the power of my presentation, the solid facts, the way I engaged the audience and left them moved and quite a bit more educated on a significant part of Russia’s rich history – I had not followed the rules. I had no outline, no formal bibliography, no note cards to refer to as I gave the presentation. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do any of those things, they simply were not necessary for me. But in the eyes of my teacher and according to the rules set up by the education system concerning what learning and communicating should look like, I had all but failed. The students in my class unanimously protested my grade and I was given the chance to provide the missing pieces that were required, eventually bringing my grade to a B. But it left a lasting impression on me. It was among the first glimpses of what would be brought home to me over the years. Being unique and individual, finding your own strengths in and ways of learning and communicating were not a welcome thing in school, or for that matter, society. Over the years I’ve tried to conform off and on and failed utterly. For I am unique. I am individual. And just like Catherine the Great, I have my own ways of doing things that rarely involve following “the rules”.